MILL CREEK - A crowd of more than 40 people gathered Saturday to dedicate a community centerpiece as the Russell Memorial Public Library.
Previously known as the Tygarts Valley Community Library, the learning center was renamed after the Russell family, who donated the land on which the facility sets.
The effort to bring the library to Mill Creek was long and arduous, as the library occupied several sites - including in Huttonsville - before finding its permanent home.
Charles Russell speaks during the dedication of the Russell Memorial Public Library in Mill Creek on Saturday. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Matthew Burdette)
Leading the charge was Mill Creek native Brigadier Gen. John P. Russell.
Russell worked tirelessly to bring the community's vision to fruition, not only donating the land, but taking an active role in the library's planning and construction.
Although Russell passed away last year, many fondly remembered the community pillar Saturday for his many good deeds.
"John was on the building committee to spearhead the possibilities to find land where we could build a library," said Board President Linda Zickefoose. "Of course, the Russel family was very, very kind in giving us the site where the old store used to be so we could build this library.
"During all of the construction, every evening, John was over here cleaning up after the construction workers to try to keep everything looking nice, even though it was in the process of being built."
Charles Russell, John's brother, was on hand for the dedication and recalled growing up with his little brother in Mill Creek.
"Brother John, I called him my baby brother," Charles Russell said. "When I was 10 and he was 5 years old, we had a gang and we ran around. Every time we would turn around, there he was. We tried to outrun him, we tried to hide from him, but when you turned around, he was always there."
That perseverance paid off during his military career, but John's heart never really left Mill Creek.
"John served in the U.S. Air Force and was discharged a hero," Charles Russell added. He served worldwide, but his heart never left Mill Creek. It was always there."
That sentiment was proved true upon John's retirement from active duty in 1980. Although he briefly moved to Texas, it wasn't long before he returned to his native home.
"He never left anything unfinished," Charles Russell said. "That was his lifestyle. He was a doer. He loved Mills Creek. Once he got into a project, he worked on it, changed it, created it, stuck with it; and was one of the valuable people who started it (the library) in Huttonsville many years ago.
John?Russell always seemed to have a love of learning and libraries in general, his brother also noted.
"He enjoyed libraries," Charles Russell added. "He had a vision of maybe one day having a library in this area. When he came back here, that motion was already undertaken. He was constantly involved from there."
Zickefoose and other members of the library board - Linda Peterson, Sister Patricia Peters, Elaine Markley and Diane White - echoed that thought.
"We would not be here if it wasn't for the Russell family," Zickefoose said.
During Saturday's festivities, the library's new memorial stone was officially unveiled. The stone was installed by Eddie White and John Proudfoot.
"May this library continue its mission to all, young and old alike, in the years to come," Peters said during the opening prayer.
Library hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, call 304-335-6277.